Using Cannabis for Chronic Pain
There are lots of indicators, both anecdotal and clinical, showing the benefits of Cannabis in treating chronic pain. This is good news.
Many cases of chronic pain have often been ascribed, especially in women, to psychosomatic causes and stress.
New research is validating sufferers of chronic pain, which can come from a variety of medically diagnosable causes.
And many of these respond well to treatment with cannabis. Pharmaceutical pain killers are limited in their affect on chronic pain.
For one, they can be addictive and seriously interfere with daily function, leaving sufferers of chronic pain faced with feeling “drugged out”, sleepy, or mentally foggy
Since many causes of chronic pain are also concurrent with “foggy” thinking and confusion, these painkillers can worsen the problem.
The current epidemic of addiction and overdose deaths from prescription opioids is bringing about a need to look seriously at other options for treating chronic pain.
Since chronic pain can totally overtake a person’s life, and seriously affect their identity, the side effects of disrupted cognitive clarity can further add to the disruption of life, daily functioning, and self-esteem, and negatively impact relationships and work.
This leaves chronic pain sufferers with an excruciating choice: treat the pain and lose function or live with significant suffering.
Because these pain medications also have other side effects and can cause drug interaction problems, and many of those suffering from chronic pain also take a variety of other medications, this can create a domino effect, where more and more medications are necessary to deal with the side affects of the original meds.
Besides the obvious disruption of quality of life, these big pharm meds are often extremely expensive, with over-blown prices which obviously take advantage of the desperation that often accompanies chronic pain.
For a fraction of the cost, and minus many of the side effects, medical cannabis has been shown to provide serious relief for a variety of chronic pain conditions, including, but not limited to, AIDS, cancer, fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, headaches and migraines, illnesses involving inflammatory and neuropathic pain, and autoimmune diseases.
Inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and Diabetes Type 1 have all been associated with relief through Medical Cannabis.
According to a 2002 study by NIH, 12 out of 15 regular users of Medical cannabis reported moderate pain reduction, in addition to improved sleep.
Sleep distribution due to chronic pain is a serious problem that creates a snowball effect.
Pain interferes with sleep, and lack of sleep lowers tolerance for pain, as well as lowering the immune systems function, and causing mood swings and lowered quality of life. So, these two factors are related in a very important way.
A 2003 Canadian study published by NCBI showed improvement in the use of cannabis on non-cancer related chronic pain. Pain, sleep and mood were most frequently reported as improving with cannabis use, and 'high' and dry mouth were the most commonly reported side effects.
These side effects, while real, can be controlled, and finding the right balance of THC, to TBD is the key to keeping the “high” to a level that is comfortable to the individual.
A one to one balance of these chemical components is generally believed to be the minimal effective dose. Lower levels of THC have not been shown to be as effect in treating chronic pain.
What Are The Cons Of Using Medical Cannabis? And Is There An Alternative?
Some people may be uncomfortable with this “high” affect. Those not accustomed to smoking recreationally may be reluctant to try cannabis.
Especially nonsmokers. It may be worthwhile to talk to your doctor about these concerns. For one, many forms of medical cannabis are out there that do not require smoking.
Oils can be very effective and allow you to limit the dosage to control the high or get used to it incrementally.
However, there is some evidence that inhalation, smoking or inhaling cannabis in a vaporized form, is more predictable in the pain relieving properties for intense, non-chronic pain such as postoperative.
Additionally, your health care provider can try different strains to suit your needs personally. New information is being acquired about which specific strains, and THC HBD combinations best treat specific causes of chronic pain. Some of this may require a certain amount of trail and error on your part.
This can be daunting, but the potential relief that you may receive in this process can be life changing. An acritical in Pain magazine discusses the need for rebranding of Cannabis.
Associations with stoner culture, lack of motivation, and an alternative lifestyle can be off-putting for individuals who do not resonate with these aspects of marijuana use culture. This seriously inhibits access to a potentially life altering medication for people in desperate need of help in managing their pain.
Suffers of major degenerative disorders can also benefit from Cannabis. A 2004 study of use among those with Multiple Sclerosis found relief were stress, sleep, mood, stiffness/spasm, and pain.
A huge 2007 study of the effect of cannabis on both pain and sleep disturbances showed marked improvement in subjective sleep parameters in patients with a large range of pain conditions including multiple sclerosis, peripheral neuropathic pain, intractable cancer pain, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Another study, conducted in Italy, showed significant improvement in pain reduction among those unfortunate enough to have had a failed back surgery for pain.
In these cases, the individuals had already been treated both surgically and pharmaceutically for intractable back pain and were greatly relieved on the whole by Cannabis treatment.
This is heartening. We can only imagine the suffering of these individuals, and the welcome relief of effective pain management programs.
Fibromyalgia Pain Relief With Cannabis
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome, characterized by chronic musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and mood disturbances, and, specifically, lower back pain.
As well as causing extreme suffering and chronic pain in those afflicted, Fibromyalgia is associated with “fibro-fog”: a condition of mental fogginess and lack of cognitive clarity that adds to the suffering of this condition.
Therefore, pain management options that do not further interfere with cognitive function are critical for these patients to maintain a positive sense of identity and quality of life.
A recent 2018 study in Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology showed, “This observational cross-over study demonstrates an advantage of MCT (Medical Cannabis Treatment) in FM (Fibromyalgia) patients with LBP (Lower Back Pain) as compared with SAT (Standard Analgesic Therapy)”.
This means that the benefits are not just in reducing the side effects of Pharmaceutical treatment, but that the Medical Cannabis Treatment produced better pain management results in this study. Another 2018 study conducted in Israel showed that nearly all Cannabis Consumers with Fibromyalgia reported favorable effects on pain and sleep.
Another recent study out of Israel documented amazing results in the treatment of Fibromyalgia with Medical Cannabis.
Virtually all the patients being treated with Medical Cannabis reported a significant improvement in every area of measure associated with the illness, and (50%) stopped taking any other medications for fibromyalgia.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Medical Cannabis can provide significant relief, and improvement in pain management, in many chronic pain conditions.
Concerns such as social stigmas, and unwanted “high” from the THC component of the treatment, and discomfort with ingestion through smoking or vaporization, are understandable, but solvable issues that you can raise with your health care professional to help find the right ingestion method, as well as the best THD/TBD combination, proper dosage (as well as the best times of day or night to take), and specific strains most effective for your medical condition.
Considering the extreme suffering involved with chronic pain, comorbid mood disturbances, and the serious problems with treatment through Opioids and other pain reliving medications, we recommend looking into Medical Cannabis as a treatment possibility for Chronic Pain.
Here’s to better days for all!